Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Pope on a Rope.

Ain’t the Pope a blast? I know he in often misquoted but even so today’s news reported him as stating that saving people from homosexuality is as important as saving the rainforest. The strident woman spokesperson (why do all these very nutty Catholic ladies sound like they are bit actors in ‘Carry on Matron’?) on the Today programme this morning added to the hilarity by calling gender theory 'bad science'. Bad science?? This…..from the CATHOLICS for crissakes! And gay condemnation from the Pope, a man who wears a frock and can’t have sex. Risible and mean and yet another religious leader feeding people’s intolerance and fear giving licence for more violence and segregation. It makes me reel backwards into the arms of atheism.. I mean where are the messages of comfort and hope, tolerance, brotherly love, joy and solidarity? Bah, humbug!

I am hopeful for 2009 even if I sound a bit grim. For revolution and for change there needs always to be rupture. The global recession may reawaken resourcefulness and cooperation. A new American president may bring an end to torture, rendition and begin to petition for common sense. Ambient moisture machines may lead the way to clean water for all and on and forth.

After all it is Christmas and I hope you are all able to sneak in some rest and recuperation and gird loins for the New Year! I send both my love and the wisdom of my forefathers:

Before you criticise someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you’ll be a mile away and still have their shoes.

If at first you don’t succeed then sky diving is not for you.

And lastly and most importantly..

It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

Merry Xmas and have a very groovy New Year!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas Tag

I've been tagged by the marvellous Family Affairs http://familyaffairsandothermatters.blogspot.com/and the fabulous Fleeing Muses http://www.fleeingmuses.blospot.com/! Its a Christmas themed one...who'd have thought it eh? So here we go!

7 things to do before parents arrive

My dad won’t arrive here. My Dad will be in Lusaka probably seeing sick people over Xmas. (He is a doctor..not a weirdo..) I know he will put on a grotty, extremely old Santa suit and after arriving at the clinic children’s Xmas party in a wailing ambulance and handing out presents to wide eyed, perfectly behaved and well dressed kids, he will jump into his car and shoot out of town to go and ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ at the patients at the Mother of Mercy HIV/AIDS hospice. He will take sweets. Mostly marshmallows as they are easier to swallow for people in terminal stages of illness. Some people will know he is dressed up as Santa..others will just think ‘the good doctor has gone penga (insane)’ and shrug and smile. Because the Santa suit is boiling and it will be 80% in the shade, he will drink a cold beer at lunchtime through his sweaty cotton wool beard before heading to friends for massive Xmas feast.

My Mum won’t arrive here but I will hook up with her in Spain. My Mum intends to be in Tarragona after travelling for eight months in a motor home called ‘Laika ‘with Silent John her partner. They have done 26 countries. They are a bit knackered. They will pick me up from Reus Barcelona and we’ll go to a small holiday bungalow to eat, drink and contemplate life. None of us have been before and I hope it will be fascinating and beautiful and bonkers. I cannot wait!

7 things I’m doing instead of prepping for Xmas

· This blog
· Eating stuff
· Worrying about my eyesight
· Watching TV whilst pretending to work at the computer
· Prevaricating
· Worrying about money
· Wondering if I should finally learn the words to more then one carol..

7 Things I can’t do this Xmas

· Hang with Teelo in a dodgy bar until dawn
· Dress my cats up in tinsel (as presently catless.)
· Sunbath topless
· Give Crisis the homeless shelter, their usual donation
· Buy lots of pressies
· Watch Xmas TV
· Be lonely

7 Xmas wishes

· That all guns stop working and all machetes and other sharp implements go soft when used inappropriately.
· A ban on Christmas music in public places with specific regard to Slade and Shakin’ Stevens.
· A massive book deal for me and all the other writers out there in my blogger world.
· Amrita http://tinkutales.blogspot.com/ gets a huge cash prize as most exciting art entrepreneur of Toronto
· Barack is as good as he looks.
· Free access to clean water for everyone
· A resurgence of orang-utans

7 things I say as Xmas approaches

· Damn..that looks like Christmas approaching
· Get out of my way you sodding Xmas shoppers, you ..please…ow..ow..etc
· Don’t get me anything. I don’t need anything…
· OK, cash would be fine if its easy.
· If I hear Slade one more time I’ll be very, very sick.
· What you doing for New Year?
· Oh, don’t worry. My family always do that…

7 celebs for Xmas dinner
· Russell T Davis – genius screenwriter behind ‘Queer as Folk’ and ‘Dr Who’.
· Richard Armitidge – I thought the actor David Tenant was as sexy as it got. Richard Armitidge playing ‘Lucus’ in the TV show ‘Spooks’ makes David look like Widow Twanky. No idea what he’s like…don’t really care. Will just get him to serve the food naked.
· Shami Chakrabarti – my age and already a CBE, Shami is the voice of Liberty the human rights organisation. She always reminds me of my older sister, brilliant, ferocious and quite small.
· Satish Kumar – I met him in Devon when I was a student and he was so beautiful, gentle and wise. He is the editor of Resurgence Magazine http://www.resurgence.org/ and a spokesperson for all things ecological and sustainable.
· Missy Elliot- one of the most talented producers and musicians of the last 20 years, Missy is inspirational. She unfortunately recently made a song with the Pussycat Dolls but she made them look ridiculous so I forgive her.
· Damon Albern- the front man of Blur and Gorrilaz has been the instigator and co-creator behind the musical opera ‘Monkey’. He seems to have genuine interest n things outside of his own fame and fortune. Unheard of!
· As Armitidge will be serving food (I said NAKED man..get that off..) I thought I’d slip in an extra guest.. Graeme Green- the bespectacled one of The Goodies. His acerbic wit has been cutting the edge of a remarkable amount of comedy ever since. I could have gone with a younger comedian but almost all of them have nicked material from Graeme anyway…

7 festive foods

· bubbly
· proper Bloody Marys in the morning with breakfast
· remarkable horseradish and butter mash made by my Mum
· cheese and salad in the middle of the night with a glass of wine
· olives and nuts all over the bloody shop
· abandoned chocolate Xmas decorations fallen behind the tree
· roast chicken made by my Dad.
And to end I need to pass this on to more bloggers and I better get it done quick afore next week! I say anyone could do it (religeous leanings aside my Jewish, Buddhist buddies) and here are just a few pokes for..

Monday, 15 December 2008


Forgive me, have been SLACKING! Its been a whole week since my last blog.
This is partly due to the vagaries of my phone and internet provider who are cheap for a reason. They are shit. The only reason I stay with them is that when I actually finally speak to a technician they are usually pleasant and efficient ....unlike British Telecom. BT have the worst customer service of almost any organisation in the world. It is easier to get through to a cell in Guantanomo bay then it is to get help from BT. Average on hold times were 1 hour and 30 minutes when I was last with ‘em and when you got through some dippy sarcastic bint called Shona would immediately transfer you to someone in ‘accounts’ which was really Barry on the next desk and you would be back on hold again. Purgatory is a BT holding line.

So I prefer my lot who are useless when it comes to the actual connections (my phone goes dead on average once a month) but when I get through to ‘John’ in Mumbai he is occasionally still gripping onto his sense of humour with his fingernails.

But enough of that… .

I wasn’t having a partially good week. Reya had asked me if I missed being ensconced in my book and I can only say I have been BEREFT! I know I should just start another whilst my friendly editor does the first read through but my brain has gone into a sulk of withdrawal. It freezes up at job applications, won’t turn over when prepping proposals for possible bursaries, doesn’t light up at the prospect of the gym. My brain has been sitting in a corner with its arms crossed sighing and puffing out its cheeks and refusing to participate.

To try and cheer up the rest of me I went to Bristol with the small golden hearted,bundle of energy that is dear friend Pol. She has had her car fitted with green alternative fuel (LPG/ Autogas) the only problem is finding services on route that stock it and not blowing up whilst filling the car. (It has an unsettling habit of hissing a noisy spurt of flammable stuff at you when you disconnect the fuel pipe from the car. For the first time at a service station I turned off my phone.)

Pol and I were off to the Egg Theatre in Bath to see Hattie Naylor. She is a horribly talented, award-winning writer (annoyingly beautiful too) who has transferred her darkly funny gothic radio version of ‘The Nutcracker’ onto the stage and we had been invited for opening night. The original story by Hoffman was not at all the sickly sweet, sugarplum faired, ballet version most of us have come across. It was a dark, grotesque children’s story about revenge and black magik. At half time a small child behind me was heard to say ‘I don’t want to watch anymore. Its too creepy’. Perfect fare for Xmas!

Paul Dodgeson had composed marvellous music; songs and sound effects that made me jump, hiss, grin and sing and all in all, apart from being shot in the eye by a lump of confetti during the end fight sequence it was a great evening and I thoroughly recommend the play!

My brain however is still refusing to participate. I got home hoping it would have got over its sulk but no. It doesn’t want to do anything but write zombie thrillers and refuses to even contemplate helping me get organised for my trip to Tarragona to see Mum at Christmas or to prepare for a potential job interview in the New Year. Apart from cutting its gin ration I am held to ransom until it pulls itself together.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Thin Ice

Today I went for a walk and found myself in a bit of a bind. The sunshine was brilliant. Unfortantely so brilliant my damaged retinas couldn’t cope. This combined with ice on the tarmac and my hangover (pub last night for National Novel Writing people's party) and transformed a simple stroll into an extreme sport. I had however got to a point where I couldn’t turn back…..ice and blindness equidistant either way. It became rather nerve wracking and I had to get out my cane and kind of punt myself along or cling to the railing by the riverside. A couple of times people passing very thoughtfully pointed out that it was ‘slippery as glass’ before skidding away and a dashing jogger (dashing in the Jane Austen sense as opposed to the commuter sense) paused to pant heavily and discuss his bleeding knee. He sweetly presented it to me like a ten year old. I would have got out my scars too for more bonding but was too busy trying to keep upright.

It is a strange feeling to know you have no way around something dangerous but will have to just soldeir on through. It happens to me quite a bit and it is always a weight that I feel, almost a sadness, not exhileration. The weight is a like iron though and ultimately becomes the strength I need to get home.

Blast..I should have got the jogger's number... ho hum.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Green T

Gawd, hasn’t the news been bad these last few months! We seem to stagger from one disaster to another, reeling from bankruptcy to environmental destruction to terrorism and this morning there was more talk about the noise pollution in the seas – so much so that the whales and dolphins can’t hear themselves think and can’t communicate nor navigate. I know they are all going to become extinct shortly anyway but it hardly seems fair considering their fins aren’t long enough to clap over their ears.

Was it ever thus or is it worse? I just cannot remember a time when there was a decent stretch without famine, war or ecological disaster. In the early 90’s to cope with it all I decided with my partner that ‘permaculture’ was the one true way. It meant looking at you feet, the ground you were standing on, your home, the people around you and designing ecological and responsible systems for the area you lived.

The premise was kind of: 'Once you have tidied your own house, nicely mind..with proper attention to the lime scale in the bathroom, then you can teach other people to tidy theirs. ‘ (That’s a biblical quote you know: Book of Chores; chap 10 verse 10.) In other words if we ensured we had our own sustainable system in place perhaps others would cotton on and follow. Perhaps it would spread around the entire world!

My then man and I set up the ‘Exmouth Earth Bank’ in Devon, a local charity shop and information centre dedicated to the promotion of all things sustainable from worm bins to recycled sanitary towels (don’t ask). We took over an old corner shop and painted it with organic milk based paint. It smelt like a dairy. We set up a Local Trading System and I helped my partner begin a vegetable box scheme involving and supporting local organic farmers. All this we did for free working in dead end jobs to pay the rent. And it felt great..for a while.

The only problem was that what had seemed romantic and worthy soon proved to be a bit of a grinding bore. We became friends with wonderful, innovative people but would also constantly attract the odd balls of the community; raw gallic eating fructivores who had vowed to never wash, teenage travellers with dogs on strings and stripped woolly socks who only wanted enough gardening skills to grow skunk and cider apples and who disappeared off whenever there was digging to be done, the local Marxist with his rather large shoulder chip.
I had a fight with the student volunteers in the Earth Bank shop who said I was a fascist for insisting they wear shoes. I tried to explain we were trying to bring environmentalism to a main stream audience (back then in Tory Britain, people thought environmentalism was worse then transvestism..much worse given that most of the Tory government had a penchant for French knickers and whips)

I became disenchanted, especially in the cold, wet, often frozen earth of England with the constant disapproval of much of the local conservative community. I didn’t seem to know anyone who read anything but instruction manuals on compost toilet systems and solar panels made from old radiators. Secretly I wanted to make films, to write, I wanted to travel. I wanted romance, not to spend the rest of my days packing onions, organic or no, into cardboard boxes in a freezing shed with chapped lips and only enough money for a couple of pints at the end of the week. We were saving up to buy land, some mud soaked field we could start our new life on in some freezing caravan.
For me it was never going to work. I chickened out but I have always thought that eventually I'll return to it all.... just not quite yet!

However, long story short and all that and to cheer us all up I found a couple of absolutely daft photos of me in that life and thought they might make you chuckle

Check them Little Rebel braids!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Kudu thanksgiving.

I did it. I cracked it. 50,000 words from some of the most bizarre places in my warped and rather more then ghoulish brain. Thank you so much for all your support and sweet praise and encouragement through it all!

In fact I still have two or three plot holes to fill in, a bit of back story and the spell checking alone will take several weeks. I also ended up with a Pentecostal Liberian Vodun cult and need to double check all my research and ensure that it doesn't paint all West African forms of Vodun as Angel heart meets Bond's Live and Let Die. Oooeee ( I am stretching - that noise is my back unknotting.)

I am going to edit and get it ready for the Amazon break out novel competition that the wonderful Susan from Stony River Farm (see blog panel..sorry have yet to figure out the linking thing) mentioned a few days back. If no joy then I'll look into self publishing for any of you who might want a read.

In the gorgeous Times of Miranda's blog (see side panel..sorry sorry) there are pictures of a rescued baby puku antelope that she, the marvellous Miranda and her family are trying to keep alive. It reminded me of my first experience of being close to such a beautiful animal.

My uncle was a game ranger in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in the 70's and 80's. He was a tough, strict, excessively bearded , silent man married to my mother's sister . I was scared of him but at the same time I was fascinated that he was a game ranger. I thought that being with wild animals was the most romantic and fabulous profession that any person could possibly want. (I also was convinced I would one day be able to speak with all animals... at that age..I think I must have been 6..I was utterly convinced of this. And to be truthful I am still hopeful)

Our visits from Zambia to see relatives in Rhodesia were however usually tense and to us kids dull and difficult. I remember spending a great deal of time with nothing to read and nothing to play with and the adults miserable and aggressive. My mum and dad were intellectual, artistic and liberal; my father Jewish, my mother labelled a 'kaffir butee' a 'black lover', living in the freshly independent Zambia chock full of communists and hippies (hippos too actually). My aunt and uncle found them pretentious and unrealistic and didn't hide the fact. My uncle was a 'man's man' which even as a child I recognised as an excuse to be a bit of a bully but most of the time he just was 'out' of the house working in the veld.

And then on this one trip he bought back to the house a young kudu they had rescued. When he realised I was falling over myself to help he looked at me, head on one side and then did something so kind I still can feel the lift in my heart when I remember... he allowed me to feed the calf potato peelings from the kitchen.

It was so beautiful, it was sooooo beautiful.

Unfortunately I cried when the rangers grabbed it all long limbed and wide eyed in terror. They had to tag it's ear before it went back into the wild but I didn't understand and no one explained. I thought they were hurting it. My tears signalled weakness and my feeding duties ended but my dad managed to snap these two photos of me at a moment of immense joy.

Its strange to think that they were younger, my parents and my aunt and uncle, then I am today and the world was a different place especially in a volatile, emerging Africa.

I don't remember much happiness on these family trips but this hippie chick will never forget the kudu.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Flat out.....

Ah Sunday mornings…
I was lying in bed listening to the icy rain ‘plink’ and ‘ting’ (it’s my new hip hop album) on the window this morning all cosy and dreamy thanking various deities that I was not;
A: a farmer
B: a parent
C: responsible for ..well anything really
I have known many people who find that long sumptuous lie ins are not for them, that they get clammy sweats under the duvet past 7:30 am and that they go wall eyed with guilt if they feel they have wasted a morning in semi conscious slumber. Of course I understand this and indeed occasionally suffer from this inability to be louche in the mornings too but mostly this affliction hits during the summer. In winter a lie in on a Sunday for me is a little like finding £50 in a sock or being told that you made someone feel better when they were having a hard day. Bloody marvellous.

Talking about finding dosh in a sock I am still unable to vacuum my living room as I haven’t found the £50 a loving relative slipped me for good behaviour several weeks ago. It was in a tiny plastic money bag and I went and dropped it…I know it was inside and I have searched everywhere but with dodgy eyes I can't seem to find it. Given as this is an entire month’s gym membership, a week of my Vodaphone cell phone bill or half a day of my heating expenses you can see how this might be rather perturbing. I am sure it will turn up…like my blue butterfly earrings.

Might have to get out of bed and look properly. Oooofffff alright already..…give us a minute….

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winge on Wednesday

So this is how I look this morning..(apologies..haven't had enough sleep and scruffy as per usual) and this is how my eyes are actually working this morning. Copable, yes...sure but so frustrating. I have just been to the supermarket to pick up soup stuff and somehow managed to not walk into any screaming children, irate exhausted parents or confused Polish people but now I am knackered and just want to lie down. Its always a battle but no one can tell becasue i look..well sighted. Would it be easier if I wore a Somai pirate eyepatch? Thick glasses? A large sign?
Last Saturday I went to a birthday party in possibly the darkest bar in Brixton (and that is saying something my friends.) Without enough light that white stuff you see in the second picture becomes as thick as gravy. I could see f-all. There I was in my sparking off the shoulder number, hair all glossy and spritzed to potential fire hazard, enough make up to shame Dolly Parton and all I could see was a mass of blackness. I couldn't see to lip read and I couldn't even manage the bar (nuts!) I might as well have been sitting at a deserted bus stop waiting to go home..apart from the fact most deserted bus stops don't do ear slitting (or splitting..either way it was painful) karaoke.
Obviously i coudn't flirt very easily. You try making eye contact when you are not sure if the person is facing you or not! Of the four or five men who appeared out of the gloom to attempt to make shouted conversation about how loud the music was, one was so drunk he had forgotten he had actually met me several times before, two were married to dear friends and the others were looking for the loo.
I have been told that I should date other blind people. Oh grow up!
Who the hell is going to drive or pluck me out of danger when I start a bar brawl? All we would do is bang on about what we had banged into most recently and have several people a day come over and tell us 'how braaave' we were. We would end up walking into traffic together..possibly on purpose so enough with 'date a fellow disabled' please!
This taken to the extreme just becomes moronic. I once was offered a date on the basis that 'Well, he's not much to look at but he's a diabetic so you and he should have a lot in common..' Hmmm yes obviously our mutual friends are shite.
Anyway enough with my whimpering. I am on 35,000 words as of yesterday into my novella and my heroine is getting romance up the yazoo..(cough, splutter) so shall live vicariously though her till the end of the month and put off the eventual unholy slide back into Internet dating. Is romance dead? No, just really pissed and refusing to let anyone else on the karaoke machine.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Tall dark and handsome.

My back aches making sitting at this computer difficult. When I stretch my shoulders make noises like a car being put into the wrong gear. I creak like an old house but the novella is still dripping from my brain word by word by word. I am half way through and still have no idea what is coming next. As my life outside the novella is rather tepid and uninspiring I thought I would cheat today and give you a little more of the book. It’s a longer piece so be warned and it involves the tall, handsome Agent Caleb Macleesh. I wanted to make my male lead darker, conflicted and then it came to me..


When Calab Macleesh was a child he moved with his parents to Guyana to join with a group known as the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project . They arrived en mass in sweltering tropical summer heat in 1974 when he was nine years old. He remembered that stifling heat and the smell of green growing things, the constant noise of insects. His mum, Thanh, originally from Vietnam, felt comfortable in the jungle environment, twisting her long hair up from her delicate neck in shiny dark pleats to keep cool. His father Bradley was Chinese American, had grown up in San Francisco and was less enthusiastic at first. Bradley was paranoid about the insects and constantly battling the mosquitoes in the sparsely built development. With good reason it turned out. Bouts of malaria and fever were common and occasionally deadly in this new land reclaimed from the nearby dense thorny thicket.

They were originally given barracks together but after a few weeks Caleb was taken with the other children to a different part of the settlement. He was frightened and cried for his mother but children are resilient and after a while he got used to the new way of life. He saw his parents less and less, usually for a brief hug and chat in the evening. Eventually it was less then once a week. By the time he was 13 he hardly thought of them as his parents at all. He could still pick them out in a crowd but he no urge to run to them for anything. He had become closer to his friends, the other children with whom he shared his days, the older adults who were bought into teach and care for them including the 76-year stone-deaf gardener, Old Grover.

On November 18th 1978 Grover and Caleb were part of the gang digging swales and ditches into the hillside adjoining the settlement. No one was concentrating on their work. For the first time that he could remember, Caleb had seen strangers in the community. Men in suits and with cameras and microphones had arrived the day before led by a handsome man the adults referred to as The Congressman. They had been secluded in the Pavilion, talking with The Leader and had emerged angry leaving en mass in the night.

Planes had flown overhead earlier heading for the airfield at Port Kaituma and Caleb had even seen some of his fellow settlers getting into land rovers with suitcases and bags that very afternoon. Now in the field it was as if everyone was waiting for something, like waiting for a storm to break. Finally people gave up the pretence of work and just stood silently looking down on the rickety prison like town. Grover caught Calebs’s eye and signalled for him to come and help dig further down the field towards the edge of the jungle. Reluctantly Caleb did as he was told but five minutes later came the ear splitting screech and wail of the ever present loudspeaker and The Leader’s voice boomed out sending a flock of snowy egrets and wood doves white and smoke grey frantically flapping up into the air.

Jim Jones called for his people to come to the Pavilion. The day was turning now and people would have been heading home from the fields anyway but this was different. The Leader sounded odd, his words were slurred. Caleb didn’t want to go but there was no dissent in Jonestown. Once he had refused to help in the kitchen and they had hung him upside down in a well until he had fainted. And anyway what could be frightening about a town meeting? Perhaps they were just going to have to move again.

He had been about to follow the others already moving off down the hill when old Grover had grabbed him firmly by the wrist and signalled ‘Stop! Lie down!’ Caleb had looked into those old rheumy eyes and lain down in the ditch right then and there next to the old man. Caleb saw that Grover had been digging two deep ditches just for them both all this time. They stayed there with their faces pressed in the dirt listening to the terrible diatribe that came vomiting out over the loudspeaker. The leader first engaging and encouraging and then ranting and shouting.

"I don't care how many screams you hear, I don't care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you – if you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad to be stepping over tonight

The loudspeaker crackled and feedback burnt holes of sound in the sky. Grover was sobbing. Caleb could hear him crying into the earth. All night they lay there feeling the insects crawling over their skin and the trickle of sandy soil and in the morning the military arrived with the grinding of land rover gears and the shouts of command. At midday they were discovered by a Guyanese soldier who looked like he had seen the devil. ‘All dead,’ he kept saying. ‘All dead’

And indeed they were, 918 people men woman and children had been led up to drums of cyanide, potassium cyanide and potassium chloride mixed with Kool Aid and encouraged to give it to their children and then drink themselves. Their deaths must have been quick but painful but there had been little if any resistance. The Congressmen and several others had been murdered as they tried to evacuate a few of the terrified families by airlift and it was this it seemed that was the signal to prepare the drums of poison. The already drug addled and paranoid Jim Jones was catapulted into a complete megalomaniac meltdown dragging nearly a thousand people down with him into his personal hell.

The terrible strangeness and ugliness of what became known as The Jonestown massacre resonated around the world with photographs taken from the air of the hundreds of bodies lining in concentric circles around the vats of poison. Jim Jones had been found shot to death but if by suicide or by another’s hand no one would tell. The photos headlined the Times, Newsweek and the international press. People could not understand how a mother could voluntarily walk up to a vat of poison, drip it into her baby’s mouth and then drink herself. Another layer in the nightmare.

Grover and Caleb were repatriated to the states and were separated in spite of Grover’s attempts to hold onto Caleb. He was too old they said and wouldn’t be able to deal with a teenage boy. Eventually Grover went to stay with a cousin in Florida and Caleb was put into foster care and promptly forgotten.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Other Soldiers

Miriam Makeba has died this week after performing in an anti Mafia concert in Italy at the age of 76. (Just so you know it was a heart attack not a ‘hit’.)
She was an incredibly gifted singer crossing from Afro jazz and blues to folk and beyond. She is single handedly responsible for that bloody song ‘Maliaka’ but we forgive her that for all the other gorgeous stuff she did.
At my boarding schools I stockpiled tapes of her albums and compilations and still now when I hear ‘Pata Pata’ I get on my feet and dance.
There are many different ways to fight for your county and she was a soldier always. Although she was exiled from her South African home for 30 years she remained a voice in the wilderness and always fought for equality and humanity through her music.

NB: She and her then husband Hugh Masekela performed in ‘King Kong’ a superb musical (about a boxer not a gorilla) on Broadway in the late 50’s. If any of you can find a version you will not be disappointed!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Is there honey still for tea?

The writing is going swimmingly ( 13,000 and counting) and the disgraceful lifestyle of hermit thriller-smith suits me rather too well. I forget to get all the way out of my panamas. I don’t brush my hair. I am in my socks for 9/10ths of the day. Occasionally I break out of the house to breathe fresh air and practice walking. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to double check my ‘personal brand’ in the mirror on the way out.

Yesterday I went to buy some maple syrup from the famous health food store on Mill road. I thought I had built up quite a chatty rapport with the woman behind the counter and as I was waiting for my card to do its thing without crumbling into dust I just mentioned something I had heard on the news that morning.
‘The honey,’ I said. ‘British honey did you hear? Its going to be gone by Christmas.’

‘Err..,’ the woman’s smile had faltered slightly. ‘You mean prices are on the rise?’

‘No the bees are dying. I heard on the RADIO that there will be no honey left by Christmas. This is really terrifying. Without bees there is no natural pollination…crops won’t grow. It could be catastrophic!’

The woman’s smile had dripped off her face like organic egg white. Suddenly I saw her myself through her eyes. A short, over-talkative woman without make up in an grotty track suit (or was that a pajama top?) with a old lady hat and strands of hair escaping around her face…. in a health food store….talking about the end of the bees and the end, therefore, of the world.

I looked like an official loon.

‘I not bonkers,’ I hissed to myself as I sulked away down the street scaring a couple of tourists walking the other way.

Today I had work at Citizens Advice Bureau and at least remembered to clean my teeth.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

Its still quite novel: Day the Third

You may be pleased, appalled or give a tut of ‘well, durrhh’ to learn that the protagonist in my potential fluffy little thriller is a visually impaired pole dancer. Of course being MY creation she is actually doing an MA in dance practice and desperately behind on her thesis on masked dance in the Sub Saharan region (that’s for you Tam and Miranda! I have a funny feeling she might even bump into you a little down the line..) She dances because she needs the money and also enjoys it but being VI can’t get too close to the audience without falling off the stage (hence saving her a tiny smidgen of dignity)

She is smart, tall and has no trouble with her ‘social’ life shall we say for my more delicate readers (so obviously not based on her creator) and things are hotting up for her at the moment as the club’s owner just got murdered and all the addresses for the dancers have been stolen. There is the added problem of a mother whom she presumed dead suddenly popping up again and of course the lean jawed FBI agent…(well its hard not to get clichéd at this daily output…forgive me)

I give you my opening salvo: if you want more or need me to please stop then comment my dears. comment!

The Dying Light

The lights go down and the men hush. She steps forward, left, right and puts her hand out, grasping the pole in resin coated fingers. She waits a beat and then the music hits and the floor lights slash up between her legs, elongating her outline, sparking up the mica dust on her skin and the glitter in her hair. The crowd roar into life; the music thumps and kicks her hips forward. She steps and swings and her legs fly out behind her with her five inch spike heels slicing through the air. In the wings there is a small gasp from a technician called Barry as a man’s toupee is dislodged by the jet stream.

Four minutes later and the last screeching guitar chords crash. The men are on their feet hollering and waving money but the woman disdainfully uncurls herself from the top of the pole, swirls around and down and without even a backward glance stalks off the small overheated stage. It is Barry, resembling a benign Grizzly, who catches her shoulder before she smashes into the loudspeakers.

‘Left a bit’ he hisses handing the woman a long white cane and a torch.

‘Cheers Bazzer’, she says sweat dripping from her hairline and catching the light like jewellery. ‘Good crowd tonight!’

‘It’s the way you do your do my dear Remember the ..

‘Ouch! F**k!’

‘Overhead spot….’

Casilda taps her way out of the throbbing darkness behind the stage and makes her way into the cold, concrete floored corridor and across into the bright mania of the dressing room. Eight other women compete for three large mirrors and pancake makeup, talcum powder and false eyelashes are everywhere. Casilda has glitter in a place no glitter should be and needs to shower so squeezes between the rails of show clothes to the locker room beyond.

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Boy Who Died Twice.

A few years ago I had just finished shooting a documentary at an HIVAIDS hospice outside of Lusaka where my father was volunteering as a medical supervisor The hospice was on the grounds of a catholic convent run by a Polish order of nuns and one afternoon Dad and I were asked into tea. In the living room was already ensconced a large bearded Catholic Father from Italy whose massive eyebrows were constantly twitching with chuckles and suppressed laughter. He prodded the nuns to get them to giggle. He even prodded my Dad – he was brave I’ll give him that.

However half way through the visit one of the nuns came in with biscuits looking grave.
‘That is a terrible story you bring with you Father,’ she said
Dad and I turned surprised to the priest who up til then had seemed as jolly as Santa.
His eyebrows settled and sunk. His lips thinned. All laughter was gone and a dark gloom filled the air.
‘Sister, he responded quietly, ‘ I had put it to the back of my mind but you are right. It has been a terrible week’

‘Are you all right Father?’ asked my dad.

The Father it turned out had just come from a funeral in Northern province. The funeral was for a boy who had died twice.

The lad had a form of epilepsy that caused him to fall into deep coma like sleeps after a seizure. Little was known about his condition but people understood that he would take an hour or so and then wake. He was 14 and one day he didn’t wake up. Eventually his mother panicked and took him to the local health centre. There a medic declared him dead. His heart broken mother was taken away to help prepare the funeral and his body was taken to the local morgue.

In the morning when the relatives and the priest came to collect the boys’ body they were horrified to find his head staved in and the body mutilated. Noone could understand why his body had suffered such abuse and then the priest noticed the morgue orderlies were looking terrified and guilty. He demanded to know what had happened and they told him the boy’s body had been possessed by demons.

In fact the poor kid had only been in a deep post seizure sleep and not dead. In the night he had woken in his metal drawer in the morgue and of course panicked and smashed and pounded to be let out. The two orderlies, believing the boy had returned from the dead as a demon, had opened the drawer armed with hammers and sticks and beaten the boy back down. Then they had laid out the body and kept watch until the grieving relatives arrived.

The priest finished his story and in the silence that followed he reached for a biscuit and munched it contemplatively.

‘The morgue attendants were arrested still protesting their innocence…in fact still thinking they were heroes. Dio mio! What could I do? We buried the boy in the grave prepared for him the day before he died.’

And that my dear friend’s, is God’s honest truth. Really. Ask my Dad.

Happy Halloween.

'Basketcase': Tanvir Bush (c) 2007

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

National Novel Writing Month

This morning I walked into a fist of bureaucracy kindly supplied by the Department of Work and Pensions. Not only does it ensure I remain in penury for several more months if not longer but it also emotionally knocked me flat on my back. Having been knocked down hard just last week by the non- job situation I decided not to bother getting up for a couple of days.

Self Portrait: Tanvir Bush (c) 2008

’I will just stay down and watch the fists whizz by from the safety of the dirt. I can grovel and whine from here,’ I thought, practically, to myself. ‘I know there will be some kicking whilst I am down but at least I will avoid the constant smacks to heavily dented brain. ‘

I was therefore lying in the dirt in a pool of my own self-pity when a ping ponged on my email. November is National Novel Writing Month and I, being careful to keep on my knees, reached up to my shining computer and subscribed. I have pledged to try and write a 50,000-word essay in four weeks. If you would like to keep tabs on this ridiculous exercise, join in or even sponsor me a bob or two then the links are below, below, below.

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Page details: Tanvir Bush's Fundraising Page

I think I might try standing up now. I have to make up some splints for the repetitive strain injuries in December.

This is all very exciting!
Read in Blue: Tanvir Bush(c) 2008

Friday, 24 October 2008

Pink Ball Blues

I bought a pink pilates ball. I blew it up and put it in front of the TV. The idea is that when I am watching endless amounts of mind numbing, soul zapping ,flab spreading, wibbling, rubbish; honing the shortness of my attention span and ensuring all my ethics, polices and global current affairs come filtered through the glib, greedy, greasy saturated fat of pressurised media methodology...any way when I am doing that..I get to work my core muscles at the same time.

I will be an empty shell but the shell will have good abs.

However…..what I actually do best on that Pilates ball is eat vast quantities of stir-fry bouncing idly and whooping at the Daily Show.

I can eat twice my body weight because the bouncing seems to ease the food down.

Eventually I will burst the bloody thing.....ho hum...

Monday, 20 October 2008


Yesterday I found myself striding over a grassy ridge with the wind in my hair and the sweat trickling down my back. I was finding it all a bit hard going as every time I paused for breath I was overtaken by corduroy clad pensioners. It was slightly disturbing.
‘You’re a bit red,’ said a woman speeding past whose hair retained shape even as the wind gusted past scattering crows and low flying squirrels. She was perfectly cool, her dentures and mascara flawless.
‘What vitamins have this lot been taking?’ I puffed irritably to my aunt. This was after all her regular hiking group and she should be privy to their secret stash. She just smiled sagely and swinging her specialised bag of super nuts and raisins, deftly leapt over the next stile and disappeared into the woods beyond.

We did over 11 miles all in all up what she called ‘gentle slopes’ and what I called ‘bloody hills’ over Royston Heath. The landscape changed mile by mile from empty farm land with golden stubble fields and chalky mud to thick woods opening up to quaint villages followed by golf courses and heath land. The sun shone, then flagged then shone again and the wind blew keenly.

At the lunch break I surreptitiously massaged my knees and put blister packs on whilst the oldies caroused, clinking pints and talking loudly about whose funeral they had last attended. I tried to feign fresh youth by flicking my hair nonchalantly and cricked my neck. By the time we got to the tea and cake bit I was walking like Frankenstein. The rest of ‘em could have gone on till supper. Bloody pensioners. .

Actually it was lovely to get out and just stride out for miles. I have been worrying so much about things lately and I needed to clear my head and get perspective and it seemed to have worked. I did not get the job but I can now tell you that I was a strong candidate (it was a producer position for BBC Africa Service) but they were looking for an anchor and the bloke who got it had 17 years experience. Not a lot I can do about it

At midnight last night I lit candles for Teelo (and the cat)..already gone a year. I toasted all of his friends and family and mine and gave Teelo a shot of gin for the journey as I didn’t have a stone to lay on his grave. Then I slept and dreamt that I had a story that I needed to give as a gift. It was written in ink on yellow parchment. I know it is here somewhere.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Not particularly mellow fruitfulness.

The world is in a very bad way. Proof? OK. Waitrose, the Glamorous Supermarket, has a new advert out. Carefully lit portrait shots of humps of bloody meat turning into Sunday roasts, fireplaces and hot pototoes, squally rain and cosy kitchen sponge cake makers… the famous Mersey side poet Roger McGough pottles on about seasons of mellow fruitfulness..only the riff, that sweet music mandolining and wheeling in the background is the Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ which I believe is a sonnet to heroin.

Hmmm.. What pray is the subliminal marketing message in that one then, mate?

DON’T’ ask about the BLOODY job!!! Still haven’t heard. However to distract myself I did overtime at CAB and I was given a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates by two Lithuanians hoping to set themselves up in the burger business. It’s a long story, all legal and life is sometimes most marvellous when we least expect.

Have a good weekend y’all! And just so that The Man cannot steal the sumptuous, extraordinarily beautiful poetry of John Keats to sell battery farmed chicken and spotted dick (tis a pudding..honestly ed) here is ‘To Autumn’ for you to enjoy in Technicolor (that’s TechnicolOR to you New York cuz) In the second verse Keats too turns to poppies... perhaps some poor media executive at Watirose was actually being clever?! Nahh..surely not...

John Keats: To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,

Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring?

Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,

-While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

getting out of my head.

I apologise. Have been out of sorts this week..scratchy and irritable due to the fact I have been slightly more blinded (complications happen...they pass) and I am still waiting to hear on the job from 17th . As I didn’t hear on Friday I suspect I shall be getting the ‘Dear John’ letter next week. Ho hum.

I couldn’t concentrate and my blogging kept descending into ranting. It had started low key along the lines..If this blog were a room I’d be trashing it. If this blog were a cage I’d be pacing up and down up and down
It gradually got more disturbed. …. If this blog were a photocopier I’d be the empty toner cartridge. If this blog were Georgia I’d be a Russian road block. If this blog was the new Zimbabwean power share I would be the paper it wasn’t worth writing on. (Errr? Ed.) If this blog were a swan it would be the flu under its pin feathers.. etc. I thought it best to ‘select all’ and delete’.

Today though, my eyes released me and the light was lovely, golden and warm. High skies of blue. I decided with deference to the lovely Gold Puppy person to take myself off on a long walk and chill the hell …out! (Do check out her blog and especially her gorgeous photos. This one’s for you!) I walked for nearly 4 hours and am so knackered I still can't think properly!

If this blog were a book it would be missing the last two chapters.

Cambridge: River Cam. Oct o8. Tanvir (c)

Monday, 6 October 2008


The woman on the make shift podium has got stuck half way through her ‘body ripple’. She has over intellectualised the move and stuck out her bum AND her breasts at the same time so setting up what should have been Newton’s second, ("F = ma: the net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its acceleration") but now seems to be his third equation. (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." )

This is potentially painful, certainly hysterically funny and obviously embarrassing. She squeals and a tall blonde, lithe, lady in pink micro shorts leaps up and smacks her hard on the rump so precipitating the rest of the ripple and reversing the potential inertia.

Now why am I applying Newtonian physics (inappropriately – apologies to the physicists out there) to pole-dancing is a good question. Why I am standing in shorts and bare feet in a pole-dancing workshop on a Sunday afternoon at all is potentially a good question too.

Pole dancing is associated with sex. It comes pumped up and platinum-blonded from the sleaze pits of strip clubs. It involves gyrating around a sweaty, central pole in such a manner as to offer up various bits of body at different angles to whomever. It is not cute. It is lewd, crude and not in any way bashful. It is, when push comes to shove, a blatant parody of the notion of romantic love.
However, recently it has been hijacked by the endless pursuers of the body perfect as a dynamic method of body shaping. It combines simple dance moves with gymnastics requiring strength and agility. Thus we can neutralise its nasty odour of dank bars and prostitution by claiming it as ‘sport’.

As an educated, well brought up, culturally sensitive and gender aware woman, going to a pole dancing class for ‘fitness ‘ is rather like a vegan working in a abattoir for the overtime. There is conflict in my heart as well there should be but I did see ‘Flashdance’ when I was an impressionable teenager so there is no escape.

The room is chilly and bright and two poles have been stuck into the two make shift podiums There are nine women grouped in the darkest corner all looking sheepish and uncomfortable so the scene, what with the rough scaffolding, rather resembles a public hanging. The two instructors clap hands and start chivvying us out of our middle class angst. Daisy the one in pink shorts is very posh. She is a dance teacher who works as a pole-dancer at the weekends. ‘Its really rather jolly fun’ apparently. Tina is blonde, in charge and, surprising all of us, rather plumb. It is with immense relief that we watch her initiating the moves. She is entirely relaxed and graceful even with her white belly foaming over her trouser tops. We all loosen up a bit in out raggedy shorts and t-shirts.

We begin with a group stretch that morphs into the infamous ‘body ripple’, the base of any pole dancers craft. None of us can do it and walk at the same time. The woman next to me gets the giggles and falls over. Then there is the ‘walking and touching yourself’ exercise that would make me howl with laughter only I catch myself in the mirror and am struck dumb with mortification.

A mousy woman next to me tells me that she took belly-dancing classes. In order to give the dancers the right facial expression of seductive, winkyness, her teacher told them to imagine someone they really fancied in the audience.
Good god! I thought. If I saw someone I really liked watching me in a pole-dancing club I would be tragically relieved of my liking for them. I would throw my bra shrieking ‘what the hell are you doing in a strip club?!’’

But then we get to play on the poles.

I can only compare it to getting into a playground and finding the climbing frame free. (both as a child and occasionally as a drunken adult). We learn to do the ‘Fire girl’, step, step, whip around and around wheee… and the ‘Catherine Wheel’ step, step and whip around but this time leg follows at 90% (don’t worry if you can’t picture it..believe me its better that way.) There is the ‘under arm slip’, the ‘double knee lift with bum slap’ and the ‘back bend’; and all the time that ‘body ripple’ proving we are all very silly after all. We put them all together and I am having so much fun that when time is called by Daisy I am devastated.

The teachers spend a couple of minutes showing us a few advanced moves that involve being upside down and ..well..lets say you should pay for it if you want to see it.. the woman has trained hard enough, called ’the Black Widow and ‘the Eagle’. I ask if there is a move called ‘the Beaver’ but quietly as I am impressed by their agility and don’t want to ruin the moment with post feminist irony.

I have bruises everywhere and a strange feeling of adrenalin tinged with wickedness as I leave. It is not an unpleasant sensation. Someone has written a letter to the gym saying that the pole dancing has lowered the tone. I do a quick under arm slip and double knee lift with bum slap and leg it for the door.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Po tree in times of high alert.

In Case Of Emergency

In case of emergency
Break my glass
I will salve, protect, smash
crash, bash, abolish...


Have you ever put back
What you
Broke out?

Bugger isn't it?

(In Case Of Emergency: T. Bush (c) 2001)

Thursday, 2 October 2008

No Joke.

I follow my young friend up the stairs and to the reception. My friend is a kind person, full of energy and enthusiasm and she has invited me to try out her boxercise class at the central gym but when I ask for my disabled discount at reception she makes a strange snorting laugh and says loudly to all around,

‘You’re kidding? If you can do the sport why should you get a discount? Why can’t I get a discount for bringing you? ‘

Totally embarrassed and extremely shocked I turn to her. I can feel my face reddening. The receptionist looks at me and stares. My friend grins. She thinks she is being funny..I think she does anyway. I feel shame rise up from my tingling fingers, up arms and into my chest
I remind this friend, who now feels like a complete stranger, that we about to go into a boxing class and shortly I will have access to gloves and a perfect excuse to smash her face in.
‘Only joking!’ says she cheerfully oblivious of the danger to her life. She strides ahead to the studio.

Of course I swallow the bile and get on with it. I am old enough and ugly enough to know these things happen. I don’t let my psycho ninja self out during the class and actually we have a good time and a good workout. She is just not the person I thought she was. I will always have to be a bit wary with her.

In the past these comments and daft jibes were not uncommon but since I have developed strategies i.e. hermit-like lifestyle, tendency not to go out after dark, caution and caginess with all new people etc, I have forgotten how much they hurt. This one, unexpected took me aback, winded me. Last night I dreamt people were all around me as I prepared to do a photo shoot but my camera was flooded with water. In the dream it had strange sliding shutters like eyelids and they became rusty and refused to open fully, obscuring the lens. I couldn’t see what I needed but everyone was waiting for me to take my shot…..the equipment is cheap, faulty. I am ashamed.

Will I lose my sight completely? I don’t know and neither do the tens of ophthalmologists who I’ve seen over the years. ‘Probably’ is the prognosis. Originally I went to se the ophthalmologist with my then fiancé. I was 21. The ophthalmologist was uncomfortable. He told us that I might loose my sight in 5 years..then again some people retained it for up to 15. There was nothing that could be done but ‘get on with life’. He couldn’t meet my eyes (ahh the irony..) and couldn’t wait for us to leave. I had been perfectly healthy the day before. Now my future was obscured. I tried to be heroic and at first the

drama of the movement was almost exciting. Photo; 'Obfuscate'T. Bush (c) 2008

Everyone gathered around…ohmigod..have you heard….etc. But as the months dripped by and not much changed, the tension lessened. Publicly I too got blasé but privately I clung to my fiancé desperately and, consequently, he poor chap managed about a year before he fled. (I have never talked about it in depth to subsequent boyfriends and made sure they were always the kind of men who would never ask..)

Look I’m not complaining. I have it easy compared to many people with my condition. My optic nerves have been so shored up by gin and tonic that I get confused appreciation at every hospital appointment. They are so far 'happy with my progress.' Importantly I am not in pain..not compared to many of my friends with other disabilities. And this is not terminal..except that I cannot imagine having to rely on others if I do become totally blind. That frightens me most of all....but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

However, in the meantime, let it be written here that the next person who makes a stupid joke at my expense gets it in the f+++ing eye.

(oh yep and rant over...still no news on the job. Will let you know as and when!)